LAVAL, Quebec (AP) — New York Rangers coaches and players joined star forward Martin St. Louis at his mother’s funeral outside Montreal on Sunday.
Former Tampa Bay Lightning teammate Steven Stamkos and Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur also attended.
“It was a very personal matter for Marty,” Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “We just wanted to be there to support him and his family. He’s been tremendous through this whole process. It’s great to have someone like that on our squad.”
His mother, France St. Louis, died suddenly three days before Mother’s Day in the middle of the Rangers’ series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. She was 63.
St. Louis didn’t miss a game and provided a lift to his teammates as they battled back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series.
Then the Rangers beat the Montreal Canadiens 7-2 on Saturday in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, with St. Louis scoring the opening goal early in the first period.
The series resumes Monday night in Montreal.
New York coach Alain Vigneault’s voice cracked as he described the service.
“The New York Rangers family has been touched by a little Quebec family in a deep, profound way,” he said. “It was a very emotional, very moving time for our team to have the opportunity to be there and share that with Marty and his family.
“Marty took the podium and shared some incredible moments. It was a deep message. It was a challenging day for us.”
Center Brad Richards, who won a Stanley Cup with St. Louis when they played together with the Lightning, said the 38-year-old scoring star has bonded with his new teammates during this difficult time. St. Louis joined the Rangers at the March 5 NHL trade deadline.
“I think it’s going to help just to get his mind off two things: trying to play and then trying to make sure he’s doing all the right things for his family and his dad, and do what his mom would want,” Richards said. “We all know this will probably hit him when hockey is over and he has time to reflect.
“But he’s done an unbelievable job keeping everything together and helping his sister and his dad get through this. You wouldn’t expect anything else.”
A handful of hockey fans watched as the Rangers dismounted from the team bus and entered the Laval funeral home.
Habs fan Jeff Quinn, who drove from Saint John, New Brunswick, with his girlfriend to see Saturday’s game, said he’s always admired St. Louis and came to pay his respects.
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